posted November 22, 2022 by Mike Goldstein, Album Cover Hall of Fame.com
For the past 10 years, the contributors to the Album Cover Hall of Fame have worked to recognize and promote the talents of the people who’ve brought music fans and art collectors (and those of us that appreciate both activities) the best in retail and online music packaging, design, graphics and photography.
Helped each year by asking a panel of curators, gallerists, music marketing execs and writers/researchers who cover the topic to register their opinions, I’ve been able to deliver these details to my readers and, once a year in November, present the top vote-getters in our annual poll as inductees into the hallowed (virtual) halls of the ACHOF. What I haven’t been able to do until now is ask this site’s visitors and fans about their favorite album art-makers, and so to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first class of inductees into the ACHOF, I asked you all to participate in a poll that would serve to track and the report on your feelings about who of our past inductees deserved special commendation.
This year’s poll allowed you to look over the past winners in each of the active award categories and then asked you to select those who are your most-admired art directors, illustrators, designers and photographers, with the top vote-getters placed in special categories that will be called…well, what will we call them? We don’t want to call them “the best”, nor do we want to repurpose some of the popular names that the awards industry has used over time – “People’s Choice”, “Fan Favorites”, “Vox Populi”, “Diamond/Platinum/Gold Medal Winning”, etc. A quick trip to the thesaurus presents words and phrases like “title holder”, “prize winner” and “top dog”, among others, along with some that I think are a bit over the top, such as “conquering hero”, “vanquisher” and “numero uno”, so while I know that it had to have been something memorable and appropriate, I don’t think we’re quite ready to commit to anything beyond “Top Vote-Getters”.
I’d like to thank you all – i.e., the hundreds of you who were gracious enough to cast your votes while the poll was open – for your help. We have a LOT of creative types reading this newsletter, so I felt sure that something quite intriguing would grow out of this first-time-in-a-decade effort. In the meantime…
The waiting is over! The surveys have been completed, and the results have been tallied so, without any further delay, here are the names of the top vote-getters who now make up the list of the winners of the 10th Anniversary ACHOF Readers Poll. This list represents the “who’s who” of creative and production talent, including many recognized names of craftspeople working in the worlds of fine art, graphic design and photography.
And now, here are the top vote-getters!
Inductees have been divided into their respective categories so that fans can get to know each winner individually and within their group of peers. Below, you’ll find a summary of the winners in each category, along with the year in which they were first inducted into the ACHOF.
Top Vote-Getters in the “Album Cover Photographer” Category:
Anton Corbijn, Mick Rock and (tie) Annie Liebovitz and Henry Diltz
Anton Corbijn – notable album cover credits include – Depeche Mode – Songs of Faith and Devotion, Exciter and Sounds of the Universe; U2 – War, The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree; Bee Gees – One Night Only, Still Waters and Number Ones; Fine Young Cannibals – FYC; REM – Automatic For The People; Art of Noise – Who’s Afraid Of?
(b. May, 1955 in Strijen, the Netherlands) Corbijn’s list of subjects includes a virtual “who’s who” in the world of celebrities, featuring shots of actors (Gerard Depardieu, Dennis Hopper, Robert DiNiro), directors (Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino), writers, models and many more top musicians. He’s produced over 60 music videos and won two MTV Music Video Awards in 1994 for his work on Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box. His work has been included in literally hundreds of exhibitions around the world, both individual and group shows and retrospectives.
For more information on this artist, please visit his website at http://www.corbijn.co.uk/
Mick Rock – Notable examples of album cover work – Lou Reed – Transformer and Coney Island Baby, Iggy & The Stooges – Raw Power, Queen – Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack, The Ramones – End of the Century
(b. 1948 in London, U.K.; d. November, 2021 on Staten Island, NY, USA) Often referred to as “The Man Who Shot the Seventies”, legendary rock and roll photographer Mick Rock was instrumental in creating many key rock ‘n roll images such as album covers for Syd Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs, Lou Reed’s Transformer, Queen’s Queen II (recreated for their classic music video ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’) and Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N Roll, while most of the memorable images of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust were shot by Mick Rock in his capacity as Bowie’s official photographer. He was the chief photographer on the films The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus and also produced and directed the seminal music videos for Bowie to be found on Bowie’s Sound and Vision DVD collection.
To find out more about Mick Rock and his work, please visit his site at www.mickrock.com
Annie Leibovitz – Notable album cover credits include – Peter Tosh – Mystic Man; Cyndi Lauper – True Colors; Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A. and Tunnel of Love; Patti Smith – Gone Again; Laurie Anderson – In Our Sleep; Tony Bennett – The Art of Excellence; Judy Collins – Portrait of an American Girl; J. Geils Band – Best of the J. Geils Band; Lucinda Williams – West; Paul Anka – Duets
(b. October, 1949 in Waterbury, Connecticut) at the age of 23, she became Rolling Stone Magazine’s chief photographer, a position she’d keep for 10 years, during which time she’d be credited with nearly 150 cover shots and hundreds of images for articles on a wide range of subjects. In 1984, a Leibovitz-covered record – Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A., was nominated for 4 Grammy Awards. Notable exhibitions that featured her work include her ground-breaking 1991 show titled Photographs: Annie Leibovitz 1970 – 1990 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C; an exhibit Women at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1999; a show titled Annie Leibovitz: American Music premiered at the Experience Music Project in Seattle in 2003 and, in 2006, a career retrospective, based on her book titled Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990 – 2005 held at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in NY, which was so well-received that it went on to tour seven museums in the U.S. and Europe through mid-2009.
Leibovitz has received a number of prestigious awards throughout her career, including the “Photographer of the Year” award in 1984 from the American Society of Magazine Photographers (ASMP), a Clio in 1987 for her American Express campaign photography, a “Living Legend Award” in 2000 from the Library of Congress and, In 2009, Annie received an Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography and she was also awarded a Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship from Britain’s The Royal Photographic Society.
To learn more about this artist, please visit her agency’s site at http://www.contactpressimages.com/photographers/leibovitz/leibovitz_bio.html
Henry Diltz – Notable examples of album cover work include – The Doors – Morrison Hotel; Crosby, Stills & Nash – CSN; James Taylor – Sweet Baby James; George Harrison – Concert For Bangladesh; Jackson Browne – Jackson Browne; Dan Fogelberg – Souvenirs
(b. 1938 in Kansas City, MO) – For over 50 years, this musician-turned-photographer’s work has graced hundreds of album covers and has been featured in books, magazines and newspapers. His unique artistic style has produced powerful photographic essays of Woodstock, The Monterey Pop Festival, The Doors, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jimi Hendrix and scores of other legendary artists. Diltz continues his distinguished career, generating new and vibrant photographs that inspire the rock n’ roll fan in each of us. Diltz is a partner in, and is exclusively published and represented by, the venerable Morrison Hotel Gallery. He’s still quite active and in-demand, contributing photos to a variety of books, magazines and multi-media productions, such as the new (2022) limited-edition book about CSN&Y titled Love The One You’re With.
Biographical information excerpted from Mr. Diltz’s bio on www.morrisonhotelgallery.com
Top Vote-Getters in the “Album Cover Illustrator” Category (inc. those specializing in logos and typography):
(Tie) Roger Dean and Rick Griffin, H.R. Giger and R Crumb
Roger Dean – Notable album cover work examples include – YES – Fragile, Relayer and Tales from Topographic Oceans; Uriah Heep – Magician’s Birthday; Asia – Asia (AKA “Asia Dragon”, voted the second most successful album cover design of all time, – after The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s.. – by readers of Rolling Stone magazine).
(b. August, 1944 in Ashford, Kent, England) Even if you’re not aware of his identity as an artist, if you’re of a certain age, you’re likely to be quite familiar with his work, as he was responsible for some of the most iconic rock and roll imagery of the 1970s and 80s, and its popularity has gone on to span more than five decades. After graduating from the Royal College of Art 1968 and designing his first album cover soon after, Dean has become an internationally recognized artist and designer, whose evocative and visionary images with associated graphics, logos, and lettering, were soon made popular through the media of album covers, posters and fine art prints, where his work has sold in excess of sixty million copies world-wide.
An accomplished designer and publisher, Roger also has a passionate interest in building design. Published through his own Dragons Dream imprint, Roger’s first book, Views, went straight to number one in The Times best seller list, stayed there for eleven weeks and went on to sell over a million copies. He later produced a second book of his work, the highly acclaimed Magnetic Storm, in collaboration with his brother, Martyn. Roger continues to work and exhibit and is also involved in the design and production of computer games and several major architectural design projects.
More information on this artist is available at www.rogerdean.com
Rick Griffin – Notable album cover work examples include – Quicksilver Messenger Service – Quicksilver Messenger Service; Grateful Dead – Aoxomoxoa, Wake Of The Flood, Dylan & The Dead and Reckoning; Man – Slow Motion and Maximum Darkness
(b. 1944 in Palos Verdes, CA; d. 1991) Richard Alden Griffin grew up in the heart of surf-obsessed Southern California and began producing drawings of surfers and surf culture – including hot rods and motorcycles – while still in high school, ultimately producing a comic strip titled Murphy that was picked up by Surfer Magazine in the early 1960s. Moving to the San Francisco Bay area in the mid-60s, his talents were soon discovered by local event promoters including Chet Helms, the impresario of the Family Dog concerts at the Avalon Ballroom. In 1967, he joined forces with other local talents including Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso and Wes Wilson to found the Berkeley Bonaparte poster publishing company, and their client list expanded to include Bill Graham Productions and his Fillmore West theater. Griffin’s artwork for musical acts including The Charlatans, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead would feature elements of all his life experiences, including skulls, insects, surfing cues, wild colors and lettering – the perfect combination of items we now associate with “proper” psychedelic artwork. Rick’s “Flying Eyeball” posters would become one of those best-known to represent the era.
Griffin returned to Southern California in 1969, eventually settling in San Clemente and focusing his efforts on his work for the comic industry, with his work appearing in the best comic compilations of the day. His music industry-related work continued into the 1980s, when he provided logo and album cover designs for the British rock group The Cult, guitarist Neal Schon and his buddies in the Grateful Dead. Rick’s career was cut short in August 1991 when he was thrown off his Harley-Davidson motorcycle near Petaluma, CA, while trying to pass a van that decided to turn left while Griffin was passing. He sustained major head injuries and died three days later at the age of 47.
More information on this artist is available at – www.rickgriffinink.com
H.R. Giger – Notable album cover work examples – Emerson Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery; Debbie Harry – Koo Koo; Steve Stevens – Atomic Playboys; Danzig – How The Gods Kill
(born February 5, 1940 in Chur, Switzerland; died May, 2014) Giger was a Swiss surrealist painter, sculptor, film-maker and set designer. In the late 60s, he discovered the airbrush and found it the perfect vehicle for his unique freehand painting styles, experimenting full-on and developing some of his soon-to-be-best-known creations – his fantastic bio-mechanical “dreamscapes” which would inhabit his books and, later, the films (his own, and for others) he created creatures and set designs for.During the 1970s, his books of paintings, along with his films Tagtraum (1973), Giger’s Necronomicon (1975) and Giger’s Alien (1979) and magazine illustrations for Omni magazine helped bring his talents to a world-wide stage. Director Ridley Scott saw his work titled Necronom IV and subsequently brought Giger on to design the creatures and surrealistic sets for his film Alien, for which Giger won an Academy Award for “Best Achievement for Visual Effects” in 1980. Giger’s work in the film business continued to include designs for Poltergeist II, Alien 3 and Species.
More than a dozen books on Giger’s art have been published, including HR Giger’s Biomechanics (1993), Necronomicon and Necronomicon II (1993), Giger’s Alien (1994), Species Design (on his creatures for the movie by the same title) 1996, HR Giger’s Tarot Set (2000), and HR Giger (Icons) 2002. The artist lived and worked in Zurich with his wife, Carmen Maria Scheifele Giger, who now oversees activities at the H.R. Giger Museum found there.
More information on this artist is available at – www.hrgiger.com
Robert Crumb (AKA R Crumb) – Notable album cover work examples – Big Brother & The Holding Company – Cheap Thrills; Earl Hooker – There’s A Fungus Among Us; Blind Boy Fuller – Truckin’ My Blues Away
(b. Philadelphia, PA, USA August, 1943) Beginning his career as a commercial artist working for the American Greetings card company, Crumb moved to the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco in 1967 where he began to draw the first issues of his Zap “underground” comic books, selling them on the street. Notice of his talents began to spread and, in late 1969, he was offered a large advance to pen a book based on his “Fritz the Cat” character. He used the money to purchase a plot north of San Francisco and, in 1970, licensed that character to animator Ralph Bakshi for use in a feature film (unhappy with the resulting output, he killed off Fritz in a comic book). In 1974, he began producing a comic strip for The Village Voice based on his “Mr. Natural” character. By 1981, he started a new comic magazine titled Weirdo that featured both his work and that of other comic artists. Wanting to focus his time and attention on his own comics, he gave up his job editing Weirdo and later published the first of his Hup 1-4 series. As the 1980s turned into the 1990s, the Crumb family decided that they’d had enough of the American life-style and exchanged some of his artwork for a house in the south of France, where they continue to live to this day (with his collection of 5000 78-RPM records).
His life has been the subject of film (The Confessions of Robert Crumb, Comic Book Confidential and Crumb) and an exhibition built around his fully-illustrated book of Genesis (the Bible, not the band) has toured museums in the U.S. and Europe. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1991 and his works were featured in the Masters of American Comics exhibition at the Jewish Museum in NYC in 2006. While many books of his artwork have been published over the years, one of the most-comprehensive collections of his work – in 17 volumes of comics and 10 volumes of sketchbooks – was released by Fantagraphics.
Biographical information excerpted from Mr. Crumb’s bio on – www.crumbproducts.com
Top Vote-Getters in the “Album Cover Designer” Category:
Hipgnosis (agency), Storm Thorgerson (solo) and Mick Haggerty
Hipgnosis (agency) and Storm Thorgerson (solo) – Notable album cover work examples include – Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Discovery and Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd; Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy; Black Sabbath – Technical Ecstasy; Muse – Absolution; The Cranberries – Bury The Hatchet and Wake Up & Smell The Coffee; Alan Parsons – The Time Machine; Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel; Anthrax – Stomp 442; Ian Dury – Reasons To Be Cheerful; Phish – Slip, Stitch & Pass; Audioslave – Audioslave
Formed in the U.K.in 1968 by school chums Storm Thorgerson (1944 – 2013) and Aubrey “Po” Powell (1946 – ), Hipgnosis was a graphic design studio specializing in creative photography and working mainly in the music business, designing album covers for many rock ‘n’ roll bands including Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, 10cc, Yes, Peter Gabriel, Black Sabbath, Paul McCartney, Syd Barrett and Styx, among others.The young design/photography firm produced their first album cover – for Pink Floyd’s A Saucerful of Secrets – in 1968 and soon after moved into a studio space in Soho, where they’d they stay busy until 1982 working on projects both in the music business and for other traditional advertising clients including Levis, Volvo, Peugeot, Xerox and Kronenbourg beer. Hipgnosis employed many freelancers to work with them over the years – including George Hardie, Neville Brody, Richard Evans, Bush Hollyhead, Geoff Halpin and Humphrey Ocean – and each of them went on to achieve success in their respective fields. During this initial period, the firm received five nominations for packaging design awards from the Grammy organization.
After the initial break-up of the studio, in 1983, the pair were joined by Peter Christopherson (d. 2010) and formed Green Back Films, embarking on projects to produce numerous rock videos including material for Paul Young, Yes, Nik Kershaw, Robert Plant, Interferon, Nona Hendryx, Big Country and many others. Powell departed again in 1985 to launch Aubrey Powell Productions (http://www.aubreypowell.com/HOME.html), expanding his range of projects to include TV commercials and concert/stage design, along with more music videos and films. In the early 1990s, Thorgerson teamed with Peter Curzon, Rupert Truman, Dan Abbott and a host of talented freelancers to form Storm Studios, which continues post-Thorgerson to work on graphic design projects to this day (https://stormstudiosdesign.com/ ).
Books on the work of Storm, Po and their Hipgnosis teammates include:Walk Away Renee – The Work of Hipgnosis, published in 1978 by Aubrey Powell & Storm Thorgerson; Wings Over America by Hipgnosis, with all photographs by Aubrey Powell, 1978; The Goodbye Look – The Photodesigns of Hipgnosis, published by Powell and Thorgerson in 1982; Classic Album Covers of the 1970s, by Aubrey Powell, first published in 1994 (and updated in Autumn, 2012) and 1999′s 100 Best Album Covers by Powell and Thorgerson. Published in 2008, For the Love of Vinyl – The Album Art of Hipgnosis was the first book to give fans an in-depth broad survey of Powell and Thorgerson’s work together, providing detailed accounts of over 60 package designs, followed in 2012 by Bad Habits and Poor Traits – Photographic Portraits by Hipgnosis and in 2017 by Vinyl.Album.Cover.Art: The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue.
Mick Haggerty – Notable album cover work examples – David Bowie – Let’s Dance, Never Let Me Down and Tonight, The Police – Ghost In The Machine, OMD – The Pacific Age ; Supertramp – Breakfast In America; ELO – Face the Music, The Goo Goo Dolls – Gutterflower, The Smithereens – 11 and Steve Winwood – Roll With It
Born and educated in England, Mick he has lived and worked in Los Angeles since 1973. As a freelancer, as well as in his roles as the Art Director for both Virgin and Warner Bros. Records, he has put together a hugely impressive list of accomplishments, developing memorable designs and videos for a wide variety of musical artists. He has also influenced many of today’s best new designers in his role as teacher and Chair of the Design Department at the Otis/Parsons School of Art & Design in the LA area.
In 1979, Mr. Haggerty won the Grammy Award for “Best Album Package” along with the late Mike Doud, as the art director for Supertramp’s Breakfast in America. Again in 1983, Haggerty, (along with Ginger Canzoneri – the GO-GO’s manager) was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Album Package” for The Go-Go’s Vacation. He’d then go on to earn nominations for record covers including The Pointer Sisters Steppin’ and Glassjaw’s Worship and Tribute. He’s also designed covers for OMD, PiL, Simple Minds, Richard Thompson, Roxy Music, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Lee Lewis, Keith Richards, Roy Orbison, Jellyfish, Ziggy Marley, Hall & Oates and, more recently, Josh Groban, Disturbed, and Michael Buble.’
As a graphic designer now turned full-time fine artist, Mick now spends every day he has in his studio making art. “Making art for its own sake is the most pure form of joy I have found”, he says.
To see more of Mick Haggerty’s work, please visit his website at http://www.mickhaggerty.com/
Top Vote-Getters in the “Album Cover Art Director” Category:
Hipgnosis (agency), Mick Haggerty and (tie) Peter Saville and Hugh Syme
Hipgnosis – see entry in the “Album Cover Designer” category, above.
Mick Haggerty – see entry in the “Album Cover Designer” category, above.
Peter Saville – notable album cover credits include – Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures and Closer; New Order – Power, Corruption, Lies and Blue Monday; Pulp – This Is Hardcore and We Love Life; OMD – Dazzle Ships and History of Modern; King Crimson – Discipline; Peter Gabriel – So; Roxy Music – Avalon
(b. October, 1955 in Manchester, U.K.) After completing his studies in graphic design at Manchester Polytechnic Faculty of Art & Design in 1978 and spurred on by the work being done by his friend Malcolm Garrett for the band The Buzzcocks, Peter began looking for opportunities in that field. After meeting music impresario/journalist Tony Wilson at a concert in 1978, Saville received his first music industry commission, creating the first Factory club poster and then joining the new Factory Records label in 1979 as a partner. Peter’s talents were in demand and kept him busy on projects for a number of established and emerging acts (including New Order, Joy Division, Ultravox and Rosy Music) so much so that, in 1983, he and designer Brett Wickens launched the Peter Saville Associates agency.
It was during the next seven year period that a number of well-known album cover designs emerged from Saville’s studio, including works for new clients such as Wham!, Peter Gabriel and The Dream Academy and more for clients such as New Order, Roxy Music and Joy Division. In 1990, he accepted a partnership offer from the renowned design firm Pentagram where he worked for the next three years, adding names including Paul McCartney, Revenge and The Other Two to his client list before moving briefly to Los Angeles. He soon returned to the London area and established a new agency where his project work soon extended beyond the music industry to include commissions for department stores, consumer goods companies and, working with photographer Nick Knight, a number of firms in the fashion industry (Christian Dior, John Galliano, Stella McCartney and Jil Sander). Peter’s work has been included in exhibitions in London in 2003 (at the Design Museum, under the title The Peter Saville Show, which then toured to Manchester and Tokyo), 2008 and 2012 (at the V&A), Zurich in 2005, Reims (France) in 2010 and Berlin in 2012. He’s received a number of prestigious awards during his career as well – most notably, an honorary Doctorate from Manchester Metropolitan University (in 2006), a nomination in 2009 for the 50th anniversary Prince Philip Designers Prize and the Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) award in London in 2011.
To find out more about this artist, please visit http://www.petersaville.com/
Hugh Syme – Notable album cover credits include – Def Leppard – Retroactive; Megadeth – Countdown To Extinction and Youthanasia; Supertramp – Some Things Never Change; Celine Dion – Live A Paris; Aerosmith – Get A Grip; Rush – All album covers since 1975
(b. 1953, Canada) Having studied art both the New School of Art in Toronto and York University in York, England, Canadian artist/illustrator/musician Hugh Syme found that he was able to express himself creatively – both musically and artistically – in the rock music business, where he collaborated with singer/songwriter Ian Thomas and, later on, played keyboards for SRO/Anthem labelmates Rush.It seems clear that the members of Rush felt early on that Hugh was on the same wavelength as they were, hiring him in 1975 to create the cover image for their third record, titled Caress of Steel and, impressively, every record of theirs since. He’s also responsible for the band’s iconic “Starman” logo, which has been featured on a broad range of band-related promotional imagery and merchandise. He’s been nominated 18 times for Juno Awards (Canada’s top music award) for his designs, winning five times for designs including Rush’s Moving Pictures, Power Windows, Presto and Roll The Bones and Levity for Ian Thomas. Focusing his talents on music-related design, he took on commissions as an art director working alongside Spencer Proffer at Pasha/CBS Records and, ten years later, accepting the role as Art Director at Geffen Records. His music industry clients include labels such as A&M, Atlantic, Capitol, EMI, Geffen, Mercury, RCA, Sony Music and Warner Bros., doing designs for acts including Aerosmith, Chick Corea, Celine Dion, Def Leppard, Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Queensryche, Saga, Styx and Whitesnake.
More recently, Syme joined forces again with Proffer at the Los Angeles-based Meteor 17 design firm, where he has designed firm’s own style guide, book covers and designs for the Huqua/Padaro imprint (including the beautifully-executed illustrated lyric book for Graham Nash’s love song “Our House”, released in 2021) and graphic materials/album covers for M17 projects with clients in the music, film and TV arenas. Other commercial advertising clients include Accenture, Alpine Audio, AT&T, Bausch & Lomb, Denon, Disney, Forbes, MGM Grand, Microsoft, Panasonic, Paramount, Sony, Time Warner, Virgin, The Washington Post and many other international firms.
For more information on this artist, please visit his web site at www.hughsyme.com
Top Vote-Getters in the “Record Label with a long-standing commitment to great Album Cover imagery” Category:
Blue Note Records, Nonesuch Records and Capitol/EMI Records
Blue Note Records – A trend-setting jazz/pop music label founded in 1939, Blue Note’s album covers benefitted greatly from the acute visual chops of the label’s co-founder, Francis Wolff, who himself was an accomplished photographer. After designer/art director Reid Miles came aboard in 1955, the pair joined forces to create record sleeves that set the standard at the time for their effectiveness in driving sales at retail and using their “cool factor” to attract fans of art and music to the label’s offerings. During Miles’ 11-year tenure at the label, his artistic vision pushed the design tropes of mid-Century America marketing – cleverly edited photos, distinctive typestyles, and the use of spot color to enhance an image’s appeal – to great effect and influenced record design for years to come. Authors Graham Marsh and Glyn Callingham gave us a nice compendium of the label’s album art portfolio in their 2011 book The Cover Art of Blue Note Records: The Collection Hardcover.
Musical acts who benefitted from the label’s design team included iconic musicians such as Art Blakey, Kenny Burrell, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter, among others. Now part of Universal Records’ Capitol Music Group, Blue Note remains active to this day and, as an homage to their history of beautiful album art, offers fans a series of fine art reprints of some of their best-known covers on their web site at https://www.bluenote.com/blue-note-wall-art/
Nonesuch Records – Originally founded in the early 1960s by Elektra Record’s founder Jac Holzman as a budget classical label, Nonesuch Records expanded its catalog over the years to include musical acts in a wide variety of genres, including world music, jazz, electronic music, folk and country. In the mid-1990s, new leadership shifted the emphasis to add several influential pop/rock/vocal acts, including Emmylou Harris, Laurie Anderson, Bjork (whose 2012 album Biophilia brought the label a Grammy Award for “Best Recording Package”), David Byrne, Shawn Colvin, Ry Cooder, k.d. lang, Randy Newman and Chicago-based rockers Wilco, who also garnered a “Best Recording Package” Grammy in 2004 for the cover of their A Ghost Is Born album. The label employed the talents of a number of talented album image-makers over the years, enabling them to reliably deliver memorable images for their label clients in all of the genres the label curates. Now owned by the Warner Music Group, you can find out more about the label, its storied history and the artists it represents on their web site at https://www.nonesuch.com/about
Capitol/EMI Records – Capitol Records, founded in 1942 by musician Johnny Mercer, songwriter/record label exec Buddy DeSylva and record store owner Glenn E. Wallichs, was absorbed by Britain’s EMI Records in 1955 and became part of the Universal Music Group in 2012. Their iconic Hollywood, CA headquarters building – built in the mid-1950s and looking somewhat like a giant stack of records planted near the freeway – is renowned in design/architecture circles as the first circular office tower and also includes the label’s West Coast recording studio operations. Perhaps best-known as the U.S. record label for The Beatles (whose records were re-engineered to offer U.S. customers duophonic/stereo purchase and listening options), their roster has included hit-makers such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, The Beach Boys, Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Duran Duran, the Beastie Boys, Katy Perry, Neil Diamond, Iron Maiden, Mary J. Blidge and a host of others.
With so many notable acts on their roster, it’s impossible to choose the “best” examples of the wide range of album covers that have captured the buying public’s imagination over the years, so I’d simply ask you to visit the company’s web site at https://www.capitolrecords.com/#/ to learn more about their current efforts. I can tell you that it was designer Roland Young who created what perhaps is the label’s best-known version of their logo image (first created in 1949 and based on the domes found on capitol buildings) after joining the label’s art department in 1964.
Top Vote-Getters in the “Musical Acts with a long-standing commitment to great Album Cover imagery” Category:
Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Grateful Dead (tie) and David Bowie
Pink Floyd – This band’s legacy is impressive both for their musical output and for the impact they had on album cover imagery, with their best-known covers created by another of this year’s top vote-getters – that being the legendary Hipgnosis design studio, led by principals Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell (and joined in 1974 by Peter Christopherson). While the band’s last album featuring the “classic” lineup (Waters, Gilmour, Mason and Wright) was released in 1985, various iterations of the band continued to produce records until their last (The Endless River) hit the shelves (and other distribution sites) in 2014. Of the 15 official full-length releases, Hipgnosis was credited for 11 of them (not including solo projects), beginning with their second album (1968’s A Saucerful of Secrets) through A Collection of Great Dance Songs, released in 1981. 1983’s The Final Cut sported a cover done by bassist/composer Roger Waters, with Hipgnosis alum Storm Thorgerson working solo designing 1987’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason and 1994’s The Division Bell. After Thorgerson’s death in 2013, the work on the band’s final album was produced via a collaboration between the Stylorouge design firm, young digital artist Ahmed Emad Eldin and long-time design partner Aubrey Powell. It goes without saying that the band’s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon is considered one of rock music’s best-known images, still featuring prominently on the group’s merchandise and what must be a billion t-shirts seem world-wide. From colorful prisms to burning handshakes to hundreds of beds on a beach, the album art delivered with albums by Pink Floyd surely tantalized fans as much as the trippy music packaged inside these sleeves.
In 2017, a touring exhibition of the band’s music and memorabilia (“Their Mortal Remains”) launched at London’s V&A Museum and has toured the world ever since, with the most-recent iteration (November 2022) being found at Arsenal Contemporary Art in Montreal, Canada – https://pinkfloydexhibition.com/about/history-of-the-exhibition/
You can tour through the art and music of Pink Floyd on their official website at https://www.pinkfloyd.com/
Talking Heads – It makes perfect sense that one of the most-influential bands of the rock era also put their design-school credentials (they met while attending the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design) front-and-center on the covers of the eight albums they put out during the 15-or-so years they were active together (1975 thru 1991, with a final reunion staged in 2002). First introduced to NYC punk club audiences in the mid-1970s, their unique blend of music and theatrics was put on full display in Jonathan Demme’s 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, the success of which made them world-wide music/style icons.
The band’s records featured the work of a number of leading designers, artists and photographers, including: Mick Rock (photography on their debut record Talking Heads: 77); Jimmy De Sana (who, along with David Byrne, created the photomosaic found on More Songs About Buildings and Food, released in 1978); designer Spencer Drate (in collaboration with David Byrne and Jerry Harrison) on 1979’s Fear of Music, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in the “Best Recording Package” category and graphic artist Tibor Kalman working with Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz in an adaptation of some computer-manipulated photos (produced by a professor at MIT) for the cover of 1980’s Remain in Light. Byrne and famed artist Robert Raucshenberg both produced cover art for 1983’s Speaking in Tongues, with the RR-created special edition package winning the Grammy Award in packaging the next year. Little Creatures featured a cover painting by “outsider” artist Howard Finster, with Kalman’s M & Co. design firm producing the cover art for True Stories, which featured music from David Byrne’s film by the same name. Their final release – 1988’s Naked – featured a painting of a framed image of a chimpanzee produced by artist Paula Wright.
You’ll find a nice overview to the band’s discography on their web site at https://talkingheadsofficial.com/
Grateful Dead – Perhaps the best-merchandised act in rock music history, the Grateful Dead has produced a mind-boggling catalog of music and official/bootleg merchandise since their founding in the San Francisco Bay-area in 1965. Although they only released 13 studio albums during the 30 years they performed together (up until the untimely death of Jerry Garcia in 1995), those records introduced many of us to the talents of two pairs of talented artists, the first being the team of Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley, who created several of the band’s best-known icons – the Skull/Skeleton and Roses motif, the Skeleton Jester and the dancing Terrapin turtles, as well as the cover images for the band’s 1967 debut album, 1971’s Grateful Dead and Terrapin Station, released in 1977. Another pair of creatives – artist Bob Thomas and producer Owsley “Bear” Stanley – conceived two other often-seen Dead images, those being the “Dancing Bear” logo and the “Steal Your Face” skull-with-lightning-bolt image, which both have appeared on records, merch and an infinite number of bootleg recordings/merch items. More information on the group’s latest iterations, solo outings and merchandise can be found on their official web site – https://www.dead.net/
David Bowie – David Bowie was a performer who sported an ever-evolving catalog of musical stylings and visual imagery – costumes, make-up, hairstyles and, of course, album covers – that established him as one of the most-successful and influential artists of our times. An accomplished painter in his own right, he also served as a muse to many visual artists who hoped to capture the “real” Bowie, only to find that they simply presented the best views of him at the time they produced their works.
Bowie’s recorded music output includes 28 studio albums, with an impressive array of talented individuals (including Bowie, an accomplished painter, himself) including photographers Brian Duffy, Markus Klinko, Frank Ockenfels III, Terry O’ Neill, Steve Schapiro, Masayoshi Sugita and Nick Knight; illustrators Edward Bell, Rex Ray, Terry Pastor and Guy Peelaert, designers Roger Gorman, Mick Haggerty, Philip Castle and Jonathan Barnbrook and, in a nod to his appreciation of modern art (having built an impressive collection of masterpieces he enjoyed up ‘til his death in 2016), the inimitable Victor Vasarely. A Renaissance-quality album art portfolio from one of the world’s best loved artists, with more to be found on his web site at https://www.davidbowie.com/
So, what’s next?
Going forward, the ACHOF will continue the yearly voting process (with next year being the 12th anniversary of the launch of the site) beginning again in late Summer 2023 to nominate the next class of Inductees representing those whose works were published any time during the period of 1960 – present) by selecting nominees in each of the featured categories for consideration by our voters and those nominees that receive the most total votes in their respective categories will be inducted. Please note that we’re strongly considering the possibility of opening aspects of next year’s voting to the public – we’ll notify fans and the press once any decisions have been made regarding this effort.
I’d like to add one last comment on this year’s efforts – Through the ongoing efforts of those who support of this Hall of Fame, over the years we’ve able to recognize the contributions of those who have had a significant impact in the ongoing development and advancement of rock and roll album cover-related art direction, illustration, photography and package design, along with the record labels and musical acts who’ve supported great work in the field. I’d also like to note that this year’s list of those receiving this special commendation showcases the great range of package and promo designs for musical acts popular in the many rock and pop music genres we focus our attentions on, showing fans that album cover imagery continues to be an important part of the relationship between musical acts and their buying/listening public of all ages and musical tastes.
I’m happy to report that, while many considered the album cover merely a relic of the music industry as it existed before its shift into the digital arena, the commitment shown by musical acts and their labels to continue to invest in the visual aspects of their products – vinyl records, special edition products, web sites, merchandise, etc. – and to work hard to impress fans with the totality of their creative output is a true testament to the importance of this aspect of the recorded music business.
In the meantime, let’s congratulate the winners of this year’s special commendations for jobs well done. Keep up the great work!
To see a list of all of the current inductees to the Album Cover Hall of Fame, please visit – https://albumcoverhalloffame.wordpress.com/achof-nominee-inductee-menu-page/achof-inductee-list-main-page/